Bariloche 11

Lake Days : Bariloche, Argentina

We were welcomed back into Argentina like old friends. We both agreed that the border crossing in the shadow of Volcán Lanín was the easiest and friendliest that we have come across so far. The staff were happy to chat, fixed up some paperwork issues that had been giving us problems and even boiled some hot water for our thermos… having water for a mate break is a big deal to Argentines.

The Lake District of Argentina has been a paradise for wild camping. It seems that we can take any random road alongside a lake and find a perfect spot for the night.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHitting the snooze button. Lago Lolog. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA morning at the gym, Lago Lolog.

Bariloche 23 Bariloche 24 Bariloche 25Honey, I’m home. Lago Gutiérrez.

Our good luck didn’t end at the border crossing. We arrived in San Martin de Los Andes and checked our emails to find that Manu and the La Chanchita Bus were also there. Manu has just finished his project and it’s a real beauty. A 1966 Mercedes Bus that was once used as public transport in Buenos Aires, he’s fitted it out as a six berth camper ready to take snow seekers wherever they want to go in the area.

We met up with them at the Chapelco ski resort and followed them back to Bariloche along the amazingly scenic Ruta de Siete Lagos (Seven Lakes Drive).

Bariloche 01 Bariloche 02Is it a bus or a cabin?

Bariloche 08 Bariloche 09 Bariloche 10 Bariloche 11In convoy with La Chanchita

Once in Bariloche, Manu welcomed us into his home and showed us around the area. We had a great time throughout the week, hanging out with him and his friend Lu (and his dog Bengoa).

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Manu also knew of a hidden lakeside beach, perfect for a dinner party around the campfire.

Bariloche 19 Bariloche 20 Bariloche 21 Bariloche 22A lesson in asado

We couldn’t have hoped for a better week. All thanks to the kindness and generosity of this one guy. There was only one downside. Argentina didn’t get much snow this winter, so the ski resorts were either completely closed or not worth skiing.

But not to worry. Manu had a plan for that too…

Posted from: Coyhaique, Chile.

PS: for some amazing photos from this week see the La Chanchita facebook page.

Villarrica 02

The Volcano Curse : Pucón, Chile

Pucón in Chile seemed to us like a clone of Banff in Canada. It’s very beautiful and very touristy. I think that winter is a more mellow time to visit, which suited us just fine.

We have been wanting to do some ski touring for a while and hoped to break our ‘volcano curse’ by tackling Volcán Villarrica. Every time we have visited a volcano on this trip, things haven’t gone as planned.

We arrived in Pucón to rain and clouds, found the only shop in town that offers ski touring on the volcano, and booked a trip for the next day. We woke up at the crack of dawn to totally clear skies. The volcano looked so beautiful and ominous smoking in the early morning light. Lucky for us, the conditions were almost perfect for attempting the summit.

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And so we climbed… and climbed… and climbed. It may have been slightly ambitious for my first ski touring attempt. Going straight up was fine, but turning on the steep slopes was a bit of a debacle for me. It requires almost doing the side splits, then bringing one long loosely attached ski over to meet the other. Very tricky for the flexibility challenged!

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I’m not sure how long it took to reach the summit, but they estimate about 4-5hrs. By the time we got there, the wind had really picked up, and we were being blasted by ice and snow. It was pretty amazing being at the top of an active volcano, looking down into it’s smoking crater, only once copping a face full of gas. From the top we could see the snow capped Volcán Lanín, which marks the border between Chile and Argentina.

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Finally, the moment I had been waiting for! There had been a dusting of snow overnight, so I was pretty keen to start the ski down. I clicked into my skis, hit the slope and then tried to make my first turn. Then things got weird… I could barely communicate with my skis. I felt and looked (confirmed by Mark), like I was back on the bunny slopes. I was falling on almost every turn. The touring bindings I was using allowed for a lot of movement, which is not what I’m used to at all. I felt completely unstable and out of control. Soon my confidence was shot. I even had to walk part of the way down.

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At least this guy got some fresh tracks…

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We celebrated at the end of the day with the guides and the rest of the crew, over some rooftop beers and this spectacular view. I’m sure my poor guide was breathing a few deep sighs of relief.

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At first I was just thankful to have made it down without any broken bones. But after a while that wore off, and I was just annoyed. The terrain wasn’t any more difficult than what i’m used to, and worst of all, the volcano curse lives on.

Soaking in the hot springs at Los Pozones was the perfect cure for my aching ego and tired muscles.

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The next day, we leisurely made our way towards the Argentine border. Saying our farewells to the smoking Volcán Villarrica, still visible from the quiet backroads.

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This pretty campsite in the woods was home for our last night in Chile… but we’ll be back, real soon! This country is absolutely blowing our minds.

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Posted from: Bariloche, Argentina.

Central Chile 24

On the Road Again : Central Chile

We had been sitting still in Santiago for far too long. And as soon as we left the city we were seeking out campsites in the woods and trails into the mountains. I was on a mission to camp in the forest and cook over an open fire.

It didn’t take long to get back to van life the way it should be. By sunset on the second day, after a day of chasing waterfalls, we were popping the top in the winter woods and enjoying the alpenglow on the snow capped peaks.

But my mission was not yet accomplished… there were no fires allowed in this area.

Central Chile 01 Central Chile 02 Central Chile 03 Central Chile 04 Parque Nacional Siete Tazas

Central Chile 05 Central Chile 06Onion eyes

We couldn’t have been happier the next morning, brewing coffee  and having breakfast in the van while we planned a hike into the Altos de Lircay National Reserve. Since it’s still winter here, the park was totally empty. Just us, the mountains, and a few local critters.

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For some reason, people around here aren’t that keen to go hiking through waist deep snow. But it was definitely worth it for the amazing views and the beautiful afternoon light filtering through the naked trees. After a long day on the trail, we made it back to the van around sundown and stayed in the deserted campground of the reserve. Enjoying the absolute silence, we had the best sleep ever.

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On our way up to Chillán, we found a sweet spot by the river, just out of view of the highway. In the morning there was a blanket of fresh snow all around us, and it was still coming down. We haven’t seen snow falling since our last winter in Canada so we were super excited. Like kids on Christmas day.

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Our timing couldn’t have been better. There’s a pretty damn good ski resort at Chillan, but they hadn’t had snow for quite a while. We were waiting at the rental shop for the doors to open, and hit the slopes as soon as we could.

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There were only a couple of chairlifts open, but they give access to a lot of amazing terrain. And on a powder day like this, you don’t need much more.

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The snow was so deep and heavy that we had to zoom back into town so Bec could get some bigger skis. Then she really started ripping. We couldn’t wipe the smiles from our faces.  It’s times like these that we really wish all our friends were here with us. Carpark lunch breaks and after-ski beers just aren’t the same without them.

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And what better way to end a day than cooking over a camp fire. It took a few days, but finally… mission accomplished.

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All of this in just five days… it’s oh so good to be back on the road.

Posted from Bariloche, Argentina.